Zentangle is an easy to learn, mindful and enjoyable art method, where you create beautiful designs by drawing structured patterns. We call the patterns “tangles”. Each tangle is broken down into several steps, so you needn’t worry about how to create it, just draw one line at a time, breathe, relax and take your time. Tangles are traditionally drawn on small paper “tiles” which measure 9cm square – less daunting than a large sheet of paper, portable and possible to complete in a shorter time frame (or taking as long as you wish!)
Zentangle is non-representational and there is no “right way up” for the tile, in fact when you have finished drawing it you might enjoy turning it around at arm’s length to see which orientation you prefer.
Zentangle was founded by Maria Thomas and Rick Roberts, in the early 2000s. Maria was a calligrapher/designer with a stationery business; Rick had a varied history including printing, flute designing/manufacturing and photography. He also lived as a monk for seventeen years. Rick and Maria were both married before to other people, but then became a couple later in life – having “almost” known each other since school, their individual creative pathways eventually brought them together. As a couple, they would go to craft fairs – Rick selling his flutes, Maria selling botanical illustration prints. Maria would personalise prints for her customers – who loved watching her add her beautiful penmanship to them. The customers would often pass comments such as “That is so beautiful… but I could never do that/have the space/time/confidence/talent etc to do it myself.” I expect you can see where this is going!
Some months after they had started working together, Rick burst into Maria’s studio to find her working on an illuminated manuscript – the kind that has large embellished gilded letters. The studio was quiet, and she had been completely absorbed in the process of drawing small, complex patterns inside a large letter. When Rick interrupted her, it took her a little time to “wake up” from the focus of drawing the patterns. Maria said that she was unaware of her surroundings, not worried about anything, not thinking about her to-do lists, just totally lost in the moment. As she explained this to Rick, he realised that what Maria was describing was meditation.
From this pivotal moment, the tiny seeds of Zentangle were planted… Rick and Maria began to explore the possibility of translating this absorption, this calm focus, the slow drawing of repetitive patterns into something that people could learn, something that could have steps, a system. Ideas began to flow between them and the framework that was to become Zentangle started to take shape…
Zentangle Inc is now a small, family-and-friends run business, based in Massachusetts. There are now over 3,000 Certified Zentangle Teachers in 40 countries.
Further reading –
“The Book of Zentangle” by Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas